In 1934, Surrealist Max Ernst created an extraordinary collage novel (or, as I pointed out a few years ago, “graphic novel”), composed of collage images constructed of cut-outs from popular French periodicals and catalogs of the time.
The result is a fascinating, spooky, wondrous and eye-opening excursion into the mind of a Surrealist master on the cusp of World War II. Here is my post about Une Semaine de Bonté, ou Les Sept Éléments Capitaux (A Week of Kindness, or the Seven Deadly Sins) from 2005.
This month, the Albertina museum in Vienna is displaying some of Ernst’s original collages for the book (how many is unclear). This is the first time the works have been exhibited since 1936. The show runs until the 9th of April, 2008. The museum’s site has a 6 thumbnails posted of images in the exhibition, though, inexplicably, no larger versions. I’ve found corresponding images in my files and posted them above.
Though I consider it legitimately a “graphic novel” (and long-time lines and colors readers will know I’m cranky about the inaccurate use of that term), it is not arranged in comic-strip form, as my composite above might suggest. Each of these images is a full page, but they are part of a narrative sequence (the images above are out of sequence from various parts of the book). The narrative is loose and dreamlike, or “stream of consciousness”, if you will. This is actually in keeping with the Surrealists’ prose and poetry, and could more correctly be called “stream of unconsciousness”, as one of their professed aims was to create art directly from their unconscious minds.
For those of us for whom a trip to Vienna is not practical, good old Dover Books is still keeping their delightfully inexpensive version, Une Semaine De Bonte: A Surrealistic Novel in Collage, in print after all these years (as well they should, it’s a classic, despite their slightly off title). I’ve had my dog-eared copy since I was a teenager, and the work still manages to surprise and delight me with repeated viewings.
When I wrote my previous post, there was an online version of the entire book available that has since disappeared. But, as the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away, there is now a version on Google Books that looks reasonably complete.
If you are at all intrigued, though, opt for the print version.